Keilani Ricketts may end up being one of the greatest softball players to ever play the game. Friday night against Texas A&M, there was no doubt Ricketts was the best player on the field.
The senior pitcher was dominant in the circle and at the plate, striking out 13 Texas A&M batters and blasting a game-ending, three-run home run to give No. 1 Oklahoma 10-2 win in Game 1 of its Super Regional matchup with the Aggies.
With the win, the Sooners moved to within a game of returning to the Women's College World Series for the third consecutive year and eighth time in program history.
Ricketts struck out the first five batters she faced in the game, and gave up just three hits and one walk over the course of the evening.
After the Sooners had jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, the Aggies battled back behind a solo home run from Meagan May in the top of the third and another from Cali Lanphear in the top of the fourth to cut the OU lead to a single run.
While the Aggies were fighting their way back into the game, the Sooners were unable to get anything going with their bats. Aggies pitcher Mel Dumezich was baffling the Sooners at the plate, keeping the OU batters off balance with a variety of pitches. The Sooners had a great opportunity to break open the game in the bottom of the fifth—loading the bases with two outs—but Dumezich struck out Jessica Shults looking to end the threat.
Then came the sixth inning, where the Aggies completely fell apart, beginning with Dumezich in the circle. Brittany Williams led off the inning with a walk, followed by a single from Destinee Martinez. After Callie Parsons popped out, Brianna Turang loaded the bases with an infield single. Two bases-loaded walks to Lauren Chamberlain and Georgia Casey followed, scoring two runs and prompting a pitching change.
New A&M pitcher Lauren Ainsley didn't fare much better, giving up a walk to Shelby Pendley and then uncorking a wild pitch that scored Chamberlain. With runners on second and third, Ricketts hit a high fly ball to left that just cleared the fence to end the game.
Ricketts helped her own cause right out of the gate, knocking an RBI single in the top of the first inning that scored Chamberlain from second. The Sooners tacked on two more runs in the second on RBI doubles from Turang and Chamberlain.
The Sooners will start Michelle Gascoigne in the circle for Game 2, but Ricketts will still have a place in the batting order. As she proved once again Friday night, anytime she's on the field, good things are going to happen.